Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington made a contribution to the Identity Cards Bll Second Reading in the House of Lords yesterday.
Lord Stevens' speech used spurious examples in support of the Identity Cards Bill, which fail to stand up to a bit of analysis:
Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington: My Lords, it may well be useful to look at the history of the past nine to 10 years regarding identification cards and such issues. The right honourable Michael Howard, the leader of the opposition in another place, said at the 1994 Tory Party conference that identification cards were an,
"invaluable tool in the fight against crime".
Those sentiments were not taken forward fully mainly because it was felt by the police, among other agencies, that to take them forward in the way that he mentioned would erode relationships with the public. Interestingly enough, there was no discussion of costs.
There should have been a discussion on the costs and benefits.
Your Lordships know, as do others, that since 1994 the world has changed. Since 1994 the question in relation to terrorism is obvious. Since 1994 the question in relation to organised crime has ratcheted up. We are now dealing with a problem of human trafficking and the enforced slavery, if you like, of women from other parts of Europe and the world.
How exactly would the proposed scheme implied by the Identity Cards Bill have any effect on "human trafficing and enforced slavery" ? The victims of such crimes are never going to be in a position to apply for a UK ID Card, especially when, as now, the confiscation of any Foreign ID cards or Passports, even forged ones, is one of the techniques used by pimps and illegal gangmasters to prevent their victims from escaping their clutches.
The Identity Cards Bill would not require foreign tourists or students or businesmen who are visiting the UK for less than 3 months to register on the National Identity Register.
The Metropolitan Police's Operation Maxim, aimed specifically at such criminals has indeed seized thousands of forged or falsely applied for passports and identity documents. However, the vast majority of these, over 93% of them are Foreign id documents, not British ones, which are the only ones which this Identity Cards Bill can have any effect on.
Noble Lords have heard about fraud in relation to that area from the noble Baroness.
I shall give noble Lords some examples of what has taken place in the past two weeks in terms of results in combating identity theft. The dangers to this country of illegal immigration have already been spelt out, as far as the social make-up of the country is concerned and more importantly that illegal immigration is, on occasion, linked in with all the four issues that I talked about earlier. They must not be seen in isolation. Terrorists can be, and on many occasions are, involved in organised crime and fraud, and nearly every single case other than the cases that involved the so-called "home-grown terrorists" has involved identity theft.
The identification that is used by terrorists at present is as good as the identification that I have in my pocket. The police have recovered hundreds of forged passports and identification documents that are as good in every way as those that you and I carry in our everyday lives. I have some recent illustrations. I refer to the Bourgass case—the ricin plot—of the individual who was found guilty of conspiracy. He was trained in the camps of Afghanistan and went to and fro on a regular basis, which at the end of the day was monitored. He had multiple identifications that were as good as those that you and I carry in our pockets.
Kamal Bourgass aka Nadir Habra had, according to the report of the "ricin plot" trial in The Times, a false French Passport, which, again, is of no releveance to the United Kingdom Identity Cards Bill.
Having multiple identies, providing that they are not being used for fraud etc. is not a crime. All the members of the House of Lords have "multiple identities" i.e. their Title and their family names e.g. Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington is,on many database systems, simply John Stevens or SIr John Stevens etc. The wife of the Prime Minister, Mrs. Cherie Blair is also known as Ms. Cherie Booth QC.
Last week, a man was sentenced to five years' imprisonment for defrauding various organisations in this country of £1 million. He had 130 different identifications, again as good as those that you and I carry in our pockets.
As we noted previously, this case of Kanagaratnam Ganan involved
"The court was told Ganan had a collection of more than 120 false Indian passports indistinguishable from the genuine article which he had used along with fake utility bills to open more than 500 bank accounts under false identities supposedly living across south London and Surrey"
Again, this example is of no relevance to the establishment of a United Kingdom ID scheme, which will have no control over falsely issued or forged Foreign identity documents, forgery of which in the UK is already a serious crime under the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, but which still goes on regardless.
In another case reported last week, which I know inside out, a lady had £57,000 taken from her because her identification was stolen by a criminal.
We are unsure about which case Lord Stevens is alluding to here - please email us or leave a comment here if you know.
He has not explained how the proposed Identity Cards Bill could prevent fraudulent financial transactions, unless each and every bank or shop or internet e-commerce website were to be given access to the centralised biometric database, which does not appear to be the plan, and which would be fraught with man-in-the-middle attack and credential replay security problems.
Interpol has on its records 8.2 million stolen passports taken from various parts of the world. They are out there on the streets and can be used at any time if they are doctored by a criminal or by anyone who wishes to cross boundaries.
Again, the vast majority of these are stolen Foreign passports, not British ones so this example given by Lord Stevens is also irrelevant to the Identity Cards Bill !
It is worth remembering that there are massive databases in this country: for instance, those dealing with credit cards, mobile phones and even the electronic passes to get in and out of your Lordships' House and the other place. These databases are uncontrolled in terms of the type of control that noble Lords are rightly looking for in relation to ID cards.
None of these databases are as extensive in the coverage of the UK population as the National Identity Register is intended to be. Millions of people do not have a mobile phone, or a credit card, but they will all be foced onto the NIR. To compare the NIR with a building entry door pass system, for a few hundred or even a few thousand authorised users, is ridiculous.
There is the view that perhaps if we put those databases under one control with independent scrutiny and the scrutiny of your Lordships' House as well as the other place, that would be far safer than to leave the databases to build up on a willy-nilly basis.
Not a view shared by any IT Security or Privacy experts.
The new technology is certain, which is the reason why the Association of Chief Police Officers and others have changed their view. Yes, retinal scans may have problems in certain areas;
retinal scans are not the same as iris scans, and one would have expected the former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to know the difference.
but fingerprints do not. Otherwise, tens of thousands of people who have been convicted over the past 150 years would be released or have their sentences quashed; and that will not happen.
Fingerprinting of criminals is not the same as fingerprinting the the whole population, and the technique has still not yet passed the same level of scientific statistical scrutiny as, for example, DNA analysis has undergone.
Perhaps tens of thousands of people should have been released or never convicted on finger print evidence alone, but that is not entirely due to the technology.
I believe that the move towards DNA would be a move too far.
One of the few things he said in this speech which we can agree with.
So in relation to where we are on identification cards, the police and others in the security services are absolutely certain that there is a need for a certainty of identification.
They have no problem in terms of what that scrutiny should be. The Minister has set out that there should be further scrutiny of details of the Bill.
Of course the costs are an issue, and I leave that to other people to talk about. However, independent oversight—it has been described—is surely a way forward. I for one have confidence in judges—the independent judiciary—to ensure that the Human Rights Act is used in a way that protects people's individual rights. Then of course we have the Data Protection Act.
We do not feel that our liberties and freedoms or privacy and security are adequately protected by the Human Rights Act or the Data Protection Act, which have "cosch and horses" exemptions built into them, through which the NuLabour Home Office has driven "catch all" anti-terrorism and general police primary legislation.
There is no independent judicial oversight of the National Identity Register in the proposed Identity Cards Bill, only a censored annual report by the National Identity Scheme Commissioner, who would be powerless to investigate any individual complaints, or to take sanctions against petty bureaucrats or others who abuse the system.
I and others think that there is, in general, an overwhelming case for identity cards. I would like to end on another issue, which is that when police officers stop people in the street, one of the main rubbing points—it causes a great deal of aggravation—is the person's identity. The situation starts something like this: "Where do you live?" "I live in A." "Do you really live in A?". By the time that it is has finished three to four minutes later, you can have a very difficult situation. I have been part and parcel of those situations myself, and seen them even more recently. Certainty of identification is about more than only the five issues on which I have talked. It is about ensuring that you can identify the person who is there with certainty and, in such a case, take away the emotion from some of these very emotive instances.
Let us not forget also about the benefit of intelligence. We could say that, from an intelligence point of view, a national identity card would be an incredible gain. It could revolutionise the way in which we deal with intelligence. If we had a single point of contact in terms of people's identification, and of where people are in relation to their criminal or terrorist activity, it would be extremely useful and beyond that for the law enforcement agencies of this country. Of course there must be proper safeguards but, in very general terms, they are outlined in the Bill.
Of course it would be ideal if all criminals and terrorists carried identity cards, it would make the job of the Police so much easier, but that simply will not happen under the scheme proposed by this Identiy Cards Bill.